Strong, dry offshore winds – including Santa Anas and sunsets – are expected to arrive in California this week, causing fire warnings and potential power outages for 29,000 residents in 19 counties.
From Los Angeles to Solano Counties, gusty northerly winds are expected to arrive from Thursday, colliding in places with the double fire risk of single-digit humidity and dry vegetation, weather officials said. .
The winds could spark new fires and fuel the Alisal Fire in Santa Barbara County, which exploded over more than 14,000 acres in two days amid heavy gusts.
There, the danger will intensify on Wednesday evening, when sunset winds, named for their tendency to peak at sunset, are expected to increase over the burn area.
The gusts could reach up to 40 mph after 6 p.m. and remain fierce until around 2 a.m., when they are expected to subside, according to the National Weather Service.
The fire area will be “a bit dangerous,” said Mike Wofford, a meteorologist at the Weather Service’s Oxnard station. It’s the first major fire to burn southern California this year, and officials fear a season of flames is just beginning.
Santa Anas is expected to hit parts of Los Angeles and Ventura counties on Thursday evening, although the strength of the winds is not yet clear.
The models show the potential for a low to moderate event, with wind speeds reaching 30 to 40 mph, said David Sweet, another meteorologist at Oxnard station.
The humidity will remain at a dryness of 10% or less. Temperatures for the warmer areas – including the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys – could range from the mid-80s to the mid-90s.
The risk of fire is “definitely a concern,” Sweet said, adding that prolonged critical conditions could trigger a red flag warning.
In parts of central and northern California, strong winds will arrive as vegetation remains historically dry.
A red flag warning for the western Sacramento Valley and Delta region will go into effect Thursday at 10 a.m. and last until 8 p.m.
Winds are expected to be between 20 and 30 mph, weather officials said.
Although the winds are not extreme, the historically dry terrain is “still quite susceptible” to inflammation, said Eric Kurth, a meteorologist in the Sacramento Weather Service office. “Any fire breaks out, we could see rapid growth. ”
Several fires broke out earlier in the week, when winds hit much of the state’s northern interior, but were quickly contained, he said.
The blustery forecast prompted Pacific Gas & Electric to announce possible blackouts to 29,000 customers in 19 counties and three tribal regions in an effort to reduce the risk of fire.
About 9,870 of those customers lost power earlier this week in a separate planned outage that began on Monday, said Deanna Contreras, spokesperson for PG&E.
The utility will notify customers at least two hours before the closures continue, in addition to the 24 and 48 hour warnings.
In August, the utility cut power to tens of thousands of people as the massive Dixie fire raged. There were six stops last year.
PG&E said its equipment may have started the Dixie fire, which erupted on July 13 near where a tree fell in a power line.
Utility equipment may also have started the Fly fire, a fire that eventually merged with Dixie.